Ataturk Airport used to serve most of Turkey’s long-haul flights, but since the new Istanbul airport opened, its primary purpose is a cargo handling centre for packages across the world. Sitting in Yesilyurt, 23 kilometres west of Sultanahmet Square, Ataturk was Turkey’s busiest airport. However, terminal buildings could not handle the growing number of airline passengers every year, and there was no room for construction; hence its purpose changed. This article is about its history and current-day purpose. If you want guides about Istanbul airports, find information about the new airport here or Asian Sabiha Gokcen here.
History of Istanbul Ataturk Airport
Istanbul Ataturk Airport began in 1911 when two hangers were built for the Turkish Air Forces. After Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the new Turkish republic, formed the Turkish Airlines Corporation, the air travel hub started public flights to Ankara and Athens. A passenger terminal was added to accommodate them, and by 2015, the airport served more than 60 million passengers every year, making it the world’s most 11th busiest.
Airline passengers travelled through international and domestic terminals in 15 minutes through an underground passage connected to Istanbul’s metro system. The air travel hub was much like any others, and passengers could use numerous facilities, including cash machines, currency exchange offices, restaurants, cafes, and many shops. In addition, duty-free stores offered thousands of world-famous brands and opened 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Passengers reached city centre districts like Sultanahmet and Taksim by metro, bus, city bus, taxi, or shuttle van. From boarding the airport metro, they travelled to Zeytinburnu, then transferred to the Zeytinburnu-Kabatas tram and onto Sultanahmet Square, Sirkeci Station and the docks. Havas Buses departed from the arrivals level of each terminal and took passengers to Taksim, around an hour’s journey. An express city bus 96T travelled along the Sea of Marmara shores, stopping at Yenikapi Ferry Terminal, Aksaray Square and Taksim Square. Istanbul Ataturk airport operated connecting flights to Birmingham, Heathrow, London Stansted and Manchester, Spain, Germany, Hungary, and Austria.
Current day Purpose
Istanbul Ataturk airport officially closed to public use on the 6th of April 2019. All flights and planes were diverted to the new Istanbul third airport. These days, the airport is used for state and diplomatic flights and cargo, maintenance, air taxis and business use. Turkish Airlines still operate their main headquarters from the general management building. In contrast, Onur Air operates out of Hangar B. Cargo companies include MNG, FedEx, EgyptAir, Hong Kong air, and Turkish cargo.
More About Istanbul
There is no discussion or doubt that Istanbul is Turkey’s most prominent city and a central hub of tourism, education, travel, business, and finance. As Turkey’s top performer for tourism, more than 15 million people visit Istanbul every year, mainly to tour the delights of the Sultanahmet district. In addition, Istanbul is home to many foreign expats who reside there all year round. To know more about the city, browse our blog about Istanbul that talks about food, places, transport, history, culture, and daily society.